Why the Mueller Report Is Causing ‘Breakdown-Level’ Stress Among White House Staff

Special counsel Robert Mueller departs St. John's Episcopal Church, across from the White House in Washington. Democrats say they want

Special counsel Robert Mueller departs St. John’s Episcopal Church, across from the White House in Washington. Democrats say they want “all of the underlying evidence” in Mueller’s investigation. But what is all of that evidence?

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More than qualifications, more than intelligence, more than a Rolodex filled with Russian oligarchs, President Trump values loyalty. It’s why he’s installed family members into high-profile administration positions, made his buddies ambassadors and put the welfare of military veterans in the hands of Mar-a-Lago members. It’s also why the current and former White House staff members are reportedly worried about what may be revealed when a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report is released to the public on Thursday. According to NBC News, more than a dozen officials who cooperated with Mueller’s investigation are concerned they will be outed as a source of information that hurts the president.

One person close to the situation told NBC News there is “breakdown-level anxiety” among the staff who cooperated. A former White House official said there is concern among staff that “the wrath” of Trump and his allies “will follow” if they are revealed to have provided the special counsel with information that doesn’t reflect well on Trump, particularly regarding his potential obstruction of justice.

“You have a whole bunch of former White House officials and current White House officials, but especially former White House officials, who were told to cooperate,” said the former official. “So people went and did that, and now the uncertainty is just how much of that information is going…

Officials rejected Jared Kushner for top secret security clearance, but were overruled

WASHINGTON — Jared Kushner’s application for a top-secret clearance was rejected by two career White House security specialists after an FBI background check raised concerns about potential foreign influence on him — but their supervisor overruled the recommendation and approved the clearance, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

The official, Carl Kline, is a former Pentagon employee who was installed as director of the personnel security office in the Executive Office of the President in May 2017. Kushner’s was one of at least 30 cases in which Kline overruled career security experts and approved a top-secret clearance for incoming Trump officials despite unfavorable information, the two sources said. They said the number of rejections that were overruled was unprecedented — it had happened only once in the three years preceding Kline’s arrival.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information, said the Trump White House attracted many people with untraditional backgrounds who had complicated financial and personal histories, some of which raised red flags.

Kushner’s FBI background check identified questions about his family’s business, his foreign contacts, his foreign travel and meetings he had during the campaign, the sources said, declining to be more specific.

The White House office only determines eligibility for secret and top-secret clearances. As a very senior official, Kushner was seeking an even higher designation that would grant him access to what is known as “sensitive compartmented information,” or SCI. That material makes up the government’s most sensitive secrets, including transcripts of intercepted foreign communications, CIA source reporting and other intelligence seemingly important for Kushner, whose job portfolio covers the Mideast and Mexico.

The CIA is the agency that decides whether to grant SCI clearance to senior White House officials after conducting a further background check.

After Kline overruled the White House security specialists and recommended Kushner for a top-secret clearance, Kushner’s file then went to the CIA for a ruling on SCI.

After reviewing the file, CIA officers who make clearance decisions balked, two of the people familiar with the matter said. One called over to the White House security division, wondering how Kushner got even a top-secret clearance, the sources said. Top-secret information is defined as material that would cause “exceptionally grave damage” to national security if disclosed to adversaries.

The sources say the CIA has not granted Kushner clearance to review SCI material. That would mean Kushner lacks access to key intelligence unless President Donald Trump decides to override the rules, which is the president’s’ prerogative. The Washington Post reported in July 2018 that Kushner was not given an “SCI” clearance. CIA spokesman Timothy Barrett said, “The CIA does not comment on individual security clearances.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the same: “We don’t comment on security clearances.”

NBC News was unable to reach Kline for comment. Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe…

Trump Offers Pelosi $130,000 to Keep Quiet

Photograph by Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In an indication that he has reached his breaking point with the Speaker of the House, Donald J. Trump is offering a hundred and thirty thousand dollars to keep Nancy Pelosi quiet, White House aides confirmed on Thursday.

According to those aides, Trump floated the idea of a six-figure payment to silence Pelosi during a…

Political pressure leaves little room for resolving shutdown

NEW YORK (AP) — There is no easy way out.

As the third government shutdown of President Donald Trump’s tenure stretched into its 19th day, political pressures on Trump and the Democrats have left little room for compromise in the standoff over funding for a border wall. Most prominently, Trump’s narrow focus on the desires of his most ardent supporters has him convinced he cannot back off his signature campaign promise without facing backlash. Some powerful Republican allies in Washington and beyond are cheering on his demands for $5.7 billion funding for the wall, even if some remain uneasy.

For Democrats, broad public skepticism about Trump’s case for the wall — combined with a driving push from the base to stand up to the president — has assured them they’re on solid ground in refusing to bend.

The looming question is whether the impact of the shutdown on government services and the plight of struggling federal workers force Republican lawmakers to break from the president or compel Democrats to budge. Until then, the dispute has given both parties a fast first test in the politics of divided government as they try to trade blame, manage their messages and strike a balance between competing political wings.

Each side appeared dug in even deeper after a White House meeting between Trump and Democratic leaders on Wednesday as the economic livelihoods of some 800,000 federal workers hang in the balance. Trump said he quickly ended the meeting after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated that Democrats would not fund his wall under any circumstances.

Trump’s focus now is squarely on his conservative base and its support for the wall that came to symbolize Trump’s promise for a hard-line, unrelenting approach to immigration.

“He got elected because of that wall,” said Trump confidant Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the evangelical Liberty University. Falwell said he has told Trump he’s doing the right thing. “I don’t think it’ll help him at all if he backs down.”

White House aides largely agree. Officials maintain the issue is a political winner, though they have urged the president to be more aggressive in making his case to the public — and to any wavering Republican lawmakers.

Trump outlined his argument in graphic terms during a prime-time Oval Office address Tuesday night. While several studies suggest that illegal immigration has no impact on crime rates, the president highlighted horrific crimes committed by immigrants and suggested his wall was needed to prevent this “crisis.”

“How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?” asked Trump, who plans to visit the border Thursday.

The White House has been searching for options — but not one that involves compromise. The administration has explored the possibility of funding the massive wall without congressional approval by declaring a…

Trump addresses the nation, Democrats respond

Top White House officials claim Democrats won’t come around to border security

Senior White House aides, not surprisingly, are doing some messaging after President Trump’s address, by going after Democrats.

Top White House officials are claiming that Democrats aren’t willing to come around on the issue of border security. Democrats, of course, have voted for border security funds just not for the wall the President wants.

White House officials are also saying Democrats made a mistake tonight describing the situation at the border as a “manufactured crisis” — a sign that’s how the White House plans to frame the debate after tonight’s address, as they fan out to do TV appearances in the coming days.

Here’s how one official described it: “The President wants common sense solutions.” Trump said his proposals are “common sense” in his address.

Trump wrongly claims Democrats won’t fund border security

President Trump claimed that “the federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only: because Democrats will not fund border security.”

It’s not true that Democrats oppose funding for border security, they just aren’t willing to meet Trump’s demand for more than $5 billion in wall funding. Congressional Democratic leaders have offered funding for roughly $1.3 billion for border security in the current shutdown fight.

That offer remains on the table.

Border security has been a cornerstone of Democratic immigration proposals for years. The Obama-backed comprehensive immigration bill in 2013, which passed with unanimous Democratic support, would have added up to 40,000 Border Patrol agents and deploy more than $3 billion for technology upgrades at the border. House Republicans refused to vote on the proposal and it never reached Obama’s desk.

House Democrats voted last week to approve a stop-gap funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security that would not allocate new wall funding, but would maintain the current $1.3 billion in border security money. Last year, the Senate Appropriations Committee advanced a DHS funding bill for fiscal year 2019 on a bipartisan basis that would allocate $1.6 billion for roughly 65 miles of fencing in the Rio Grande Valley, but the full Senate has not yet approved that measure.

Democrats: Trump is choosing fear over facts

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in her response to President Trump’s speech, said the President has chosen to use misinformation and “even malice” to get his message across during the shutdown.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer echoed that sentiment.

“Most presidents have used Oval Office addresses for noble purposes. This President just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his Administration,” he said.

“Throughout this debate and his presidency — President Trump has appealed to fear, not facts. Division, not unity.”

President Trump claimed…

White House staffers admonished for posting political tweets

Twitter app on tablet, Photo Date: 3/7/2017 / Photo: PxHere / MGN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Six former and current White House staffers were reprimanded Friday for posting political tweets, such as the campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” and “MAGA,” on Twitter accounts they use for government business.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel sent warning letters to the six warning them that their tweets violated the Hatch Act, which restricts political activities of federal employees working in the executive branch.

The special counsel’s office reviewed the tweets after receiving complaints from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group that works to ensure that public officials work on behalf of all taxpayers. The special counsel’s office sent a five-page summary of its findings to CREW on Friday.

It said former principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah violated the Hatch Act when he used his official “@RajShah45” Twitter account in June 2018 to post a message that linked to a Republican National Committee website.

“Fantastic @RNCResearch release #Winning: 500 Days of American Greatness.” In his tweet, he included a link to an RNC webpage that…

White House staffers admonished for posting political tweets

Twitter app on tablet, Photo Date: 3/7/2017 / Photo: PxHere / MGN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Six former and current White House staffers were reprimanded Friday for posting political tweets, such as the campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” and “MAGA,” on Twitter accounts they use for government business.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel sent warning letters to the six warning them that their tweets violated the Hatch Act, which restricts political activities of federal employees working in the executive branch.

The special counsel’s office reviewed the tweets after receiving complaints from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group that works to ensure that public officials work on behalf of all taxpayers. The special counsel’s office sent a five-page summary of its findings to CREW on Friday.

It said former principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah violated the Hatch Act when he used his official “@RajShah45” Twitter account in June 2018 to post a message that linked to a Republican National Committee website.

“Fantastic @RNCResearch release #Winning: 500 Days of American Greatness.” In his tweet, he included a link to an RNC webpage that…

Trump insists daughter Ivanka’s private email use for work was ‘very innocent’

Ivanka Trump arrives for the annual turkey pardoning ceremony at the White House on 20 November.

Donald Trump has doubled down on his claim that his daughter Ivanka’s use of private email in her government role was “very innocent”. Speaking to reporters in Florida on Thursday, the president also employed his routine response to criticism, calling the controversy “fake news”.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that Ivanka Trump sent “hundreds” of emails from her personal account to cabinet officials and White House aides, as well as to personal assistants. As many as 100 such mails pertained to government business, the paper said. Scores more related to scheduling.

“Many” such exchanges could have been “in violation of federal records rules”, the paper said.

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Donald Trump defends Ivanka over personal email use – video

While the New York Times reported in September 2017 that at least six White House staffers including Ivanka had used private email accounts, the Post said its reporters were the first to reveal the extent of such use.

The report prompted widespread comment, given Trump’s longtime criticism of his 2016 election rival Hillary Clinton for using personal email for official business while secretary of state, attacks that traditionally bring forth chants of “Lock her up!” from the president’s supporters.

Asked by a reporter at Mar-a-Lago if he…

Trump White House lawyer cooperates with Russia investigation – report

White House counsel Donald McGahn sits behind Donald Trump during a cabinet meeting.

The top White House lawyer has cooperated extensively with the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US election, sharing detailed accounts about episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether Donald Trump obstructed justice, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

Citing a dozen current and former White House officials and others briefed on the matter, the newspaper said White House counsel Donald McGahn had shared information, some of which the investigators would not otherwise have known about.

Trump has repeatedly denounced the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Moscow as a “witch hunt”.

“The president and Don have a great relationship,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Saturday. “He appreciates all the hard work he’s done, particularly his help and expertise with the judges, and the supreme court.”

Others in the White House have described the relationship as strained.

Trump subsequently tweeted his own response to the report, writing: “I allowed White House counsel Don McGahn, and all other requested members of the White House staff, to fully cooperate with the special councel [sic]. In addition we readily gave over one million pages of documents. Most transparent in history. No Collusion, No Obstruction. Witch Hunt!”

He subsequently deleted the tweet and reissued it with the spelling mistake corrected.

McGahn cooperated with Robert Mueller’s team as a regular witness, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters, as the White House asked many staffers…

The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Amorphous Tapes

Mary Altaffer / AP

Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey)

Today in 5 Lines

  • President Trump escalated his attacks against former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman, calling her a “dog” on Twitter.

  • White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters she “can’t guarantee” that Trump has never used a racial slur after Manigault Newman claimed Trump is on tape using the N-word.

  • Defense lawyers for former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort rested without calling any witnesses in his fraud trial. Closing arguments for the trial are expected to begin on Wednesday morning.

  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a report listing more than 300…